First Take’s Cari Champion debuts as E:60 correspondent, profiles Cam Newton

ESPN’s award-winning news magazine, E:60, wraps up its fall season tonight (8 ET, ESPN) with an in-depth profile of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, “I Am Cam,” produced by Martin Khodabakhshian. Making her E:60 debut, First Take host Cari Champion examines how four seasons into his NFL career, Newton remains an enigma.

How did the opportunity to do your first E:60 piece come about?
I have been pitching story ideas since I first started working at ESPN [two years ago]. I have always wanted an opportunity to showcase my journalism skills. I am a reporter above all else. This was an opportunity to remind everyone of my first love. I didn’t have a rapport with Cam Newton, but I simply asked the Newton camp if they would be interested in telling their story. Timing is everything because they were in the process of fielding interview requests.

What were the most challenging aspects of this interview?
Cam Newton is an enigma for us in the world of sports. He isn’t known to do many interviews. It’s hard to determine who he is as a person because he is so private and that was a challenge. Even though he was a willing participant, as a journalist I didn’t want a story that was basic. I wanted viewers, fans and colleagues to learn more about Cam Newton, the player on and off the field, his struggles, his dreams and his hopes.

What is the most significant difference between being an E:60 reporter and a First Take host?
I was able to have more of a voice. I was able to create and develop the content. As a host, I find myself teeing up [First Take commentators] Skip [Bayless] and Stephen A. [Smith] – this project allowed me to drive the content in terms of research and interviews.

How do you make time for other assignments around your First Take duties?
I was able to get support and encouragement from management. I’m working on more projects and they are excited for me. I’m really grateful and happy to showcase my other skill set.